WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In SEC filings released this morning, Lumber Liquidators revealed that the Department of Justice is contemplating criminal charges under the Lacey Act for importing illegally harvested wood. Lumber Liquidators’ stock value dropped by nearly 20 percent immediately following the news.
Lumber Liquidators has been under federal investigation since September 2013, when the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) published its report “Liquidating the Forests”, which documented that Lumber Liquidators imported large quantities of wood illegally sourced in the Russian Far East.
In response to today’s announcement, Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of EIA, said, “We were in Russia and China, and saw the devastation caused by illegal logging. Lumber Liquidators was getting illegal wood from Russia, lots of it, and should be held accountable."
Today’s news follows a recent announcement that a key Russian supplier of high value timber to Lumber Liquidators had been convicted of organized crime by a Russian court. Senior executives of the Russian timber company Beryozoviy, which supplied high value timber to Lumber Liquidators, were found guilty in December 2014 of fifteen counts of illegal logging occurring between 2010-2012 and of participation in a criminal network.
As detailed in EIA’s report, Beryozoviy was a key supplier of valuable timber to a Chinese flooring manufacturer called Suifenhe Xingjia Group (Xingjia), the primary manufacturer of U.S. flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators’ Virginia Millworks line of solid oak and birch hand-scraped flooring. Since the Lacey Act became law, Lumber Liquidators has imported millions of square feet of illegally sourced hardwood flooring from Xingjia.
Posing as timber buyers, EIA investigators went undercover to expose the illegal wood trade in the Russian Far East and found that a company called Xingjia freely admitted to illegal logging and paying bribes and that its single biggest trading partner was Lumber Liquidators. EIA investigators recorded Xingjia officials saying that Lumber Liquidators knew where the wood came from. EIA’s report also relied on publically available trade data, copies of court cases from Russian authorities, scientific analyses, and shipment records.